Lady Gaga, ‘ARTPOP’ – Album Review
‘ARTPOP’ is a strange record for Lady Gaga. She already stacked the deck against herself, since she had to follow up ‘Born This Way,’ which was an instant classic and a true artistic statement that eventually went on to define her.
On that record, it didn’t feel like Gaga was trying to make artful pop. She just succeeded at it. With ‘ARTPOP,’ she’s trying too hard. The surefire hits are hard to find, which is surprising, since Gaga is an adept songwriter and piano-player.
While it’d be convenient and easy to compare this album to Katy Perry‘s by-the-numbers ‘Prism,’ that’s not really fair to either artist. Gaga’s biggest competition is herself and her prior record. We know. #PopStarProblems.
But what Gaga really has with this release, which comes out on the eve of firing her longtime manager Troy Carter, is #ARTPOPProblems.
This is not Gaga vs. Katy. It’s ‘ARTPOP’ vs. ‘Born This Way.’
Let’s start with the good. There are few decent songs, but too few great songs — whereas ‘BTW’ was teeming with smash after smash, from the title track to ‘Judas’ to ‘The Edge of Glory’ to ‘You & I.’
The true standout tunes are ‘Dope’ and ‘Applause’ and everything else feels sorta “meh” or good but not “Wowza!”
As a whole, ‘ARTPOP’ is uneven and it’s not as memorable as its predecessors. There are lot of Broadway-inspired, high drama vocals. While it’s entirely possible that this album could be loved and revered as time goes on, it’s not as high impact as we expected.
We’d like to point out that this writer is a huge Gaga fan, so this is not a Gaga takedown. It’s merely an honest review.
With its buzzy, Middle Eastern-influenced strings, ‘Aura’ woke us up with its drama and its overall delightful weirdness, reminding us of ‘ScheiBe’ from ‘Born This Way.’ Our favorite part is the pre-chorus and when she sings about living “behind the aura.” Yeah, we were hooked but we weren’t sure why, since the song is a bit harsh-sounding. ‘BUZZPOP.’
Gaga goes the dancefloor-approved, heavily synthed, electropop route with ‘Venus,’ which also boasts some Michael Jackson moments and ’80s disco beats. Plus, you can’t help but tap your feet to the “Take me to your planet” hook. Diehard fans of ‘Just Dance’ will lurve this. ‘LOVEPOP.’
‘Girl Under You’ finds parts of its lyrics delivered in a robotic tone, but then processed, overly produced, buzzy synth layers are added above it. ‘SEXPOP.’
Another club banger, designed for when the clock hands have moved well past midnight! ‘Sexxx Dreams’ adds some of the vocal drama of ‘Aura.’ ‘TRIPLEXPOP.’
5. ‘Jewels N’ Drugs’ Feat. T.I. + Too $hort
Gaga goes urban with T.I. and Too $hort. This is her attempt at bein’ a baller and we’re feeling it. Someone, quick! Get Gaga in a low rider and dripping with bling. The song is all R-rated, so it’s not for some of the younger lil’ monsters. ‘RAPPOP.’
It’s an upbeat, cheerleader-y anthem, thanks to the handclaps and its ‘Hollaback Girl’ vibe and vocal cadence. It’s an unintentional ode to Gwen Stefani and her sassy solo hit. We’re thinking ‘POPULARGIRLPOP.’
7. ‘Do What U Want’ Feat. R. Kelly
Gaga’s collabo with R. Kelly is a sexy, R&B romp, which has one heel planted in the ’80s and the ’90s. It’s easily one of the best tracks on ‘ARTPOP.’ Mother Monster also boasts a Liza Minnelli-like delivery of her lyrics. ‘SEXPOP.’
More computer-y blips and beeps abound on the title track, making it sound like ‘MACBOOKPROPOP,’ as opposed to ‘ARTPOP.’ Her voice takes on this ethereal quality, though.
The sonic intensity of ‘Swine’ matches the anger, hate and rage of the lyrics, where Gaga snarls, “You’re just a pig inside a human body.” The song is hard and harsh, musically and word-wise, but its contempt for the swine is palpable. It’s the most rock ‘n’ roll we’ve ever heard Gaga go. She doesn’t cast her pearls before swine. ‘PIGPOP.’
Mommy Monster’s ode to the head of the Versace fashion house (R.I.P., Gianni) is another track that finds her shaping her syllables with near-perfect diction and enunciation, and in Broadway kid fashion. ‘QUEENBEEPOP.’
A light, airy and decidedly ’70s beat defines ‘Fashion!,’ one of Gaga’s favorite topics. We bet Carrie Bradshaw or Vogue editress Anna Wintour would love this song. We’ll call this one ‘LUXEPOP.’
12. ‘Mary Jane Holland’
‘ARTPOP’ is possessed of a trippy dance song that’s an ode to pot and it’s called ‘Mary Jane Holland.’ There’s a slightly droney, quirky element to the synths of the song, making it one of the artsiest dance songs she’s done overall. ‘POTPOP.’
The power ballad ‘Dope’ is easily the best song and the highest note on ‘ARTPOP,’ since Gaga lets it rip, emotionally, with her voice and tickling those ivories like only she can. It’s a primal roar for her, coming from a very real place of pain. ‘DOPEPOP.’
Now this is the song that Ma Monster should have recorded with Cher, thanks to its big electro-pop sound and worn-in lyrics about hitting the road, living, loving and learning. It’s begging for a vocal share with Cher. Remix, anyone? We’ll wait for ‘CHERPOP.’
Gaga ended the album with the first single, which was a grower, in that it got better with each listen. It’s so danceable and full of life, but it doesn’t match anything on ‘Born This Way.’ It’s ‘GOODPOP’ but not ‘GAGABESTPOP.’